This afternoon we made a spontaneous trip to one of the Nature Centers for our "Science lesson" ahem, and while we were there it occurred to me that we spend more time in nature in the city than I did when I lived in the country. It is ironic, but there are so many great metroparks and state parks close by, and we frequent them regularly. In contrast, when you live surrounded by corn fields you forget to take walks in the woods.
Another irony: my world is smaller in the city.
I have often felt this idea of needing to overcome my small town, like there was an assumption that being from a small town implied your life was small and narrow and in some ways, yes, we were protected from many things and there wasn't a lot of diversity.
But after three years in Cleveland, I find that my world here is pretty small too. I tend to travel along the same paths, to the grocery store, with friends, to lessons, pretty much in the same patterns. There are many many parts of Cleveland that I have never been and probably couldn't locate on a map.
In contrast, I think my community was much broader in a small town, both in length and depth. I was much more aware of community issues in a small town. My neighborhood stretched across many more miles than it does here, and of course living where your parents and grandparents lived means that I knew many more people than I know now in a city.
But more than that, I was connected to many more people.
This has been one of the surprises of life in a city, and I'm sure that my small-town naive slip is showing here, but people in the city aren't as interested or willing to connect. Of course not everybody. We have met many great people. But for example, our neighbors in one house don't speak to us. This is mind-boggling and bewildering to me. They are polite- just reserved, they would never stop to chat and I can't get used to this. (Maybe it has something to do with all of the little girl drama coming from our house, I don't know).
In the past few weeks on facebook there have been big community issues where I'm from which I observe people rallying behind- a student who had a heart transplant, a young girl with cancer, school levies, to name a few. I am reminded of the way that people in small towns pull together and help and support each other. How precious that is!
Updated: I am reminded that of course small towns are certainly not always nice or friendly, in some ways they can be even more threatening. I think my point is that people are people everywhere and everyone's life can be as small or as broad as they choose to make it, regardless of where they live.
But we love the city. I also appreciate more my small town roots, and I try to make a conscious effort to practice some of the things I learned there . . . like smiling when you pass someone on the street, making eye contact, forging connections, demonstrating concern, and talking to your neighbors.